Fitbit commercially launches Aria WiFi weight scale

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 23, 2012        

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fitbitariaConnected fitness device maker Fitbit announced this week the commercial launch of its Aria WiFi Smart Scale, which was originally unveiled at the CES event earlier this year. The company, whose flagship product is the Fitbit Ultra Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker, is now selling the Aria scale on its website Fitbit.com and it plans to bring the scale to brick and mortar stores, including Best Buy, at the end of April. Fitbit says some 6,000 stores in the US, Canada, and the EU now sell its devices.

Fitbit Aria recognizes up to eight different user profiles and automatically determines which user is on the scale based on previous usage. (The competing WiFi-enabled scale from Withings also recognizes up to eight users.) Once uploaded to Fitbit’s website, the weight data over time can be analyzed through graphs and charts. Users can also create weight loss goals and food logs, earn motivational badges, and interact with fellow Aria users.

“We’re eagerly anticipating the Aria in our stores. The Fitbit tracker is a strong seller in the health and fitness technology category. We’re eager to see Fitbit do to scales what they did for fitness devices,” Alan Smith, Senior Buyer, at Best Buy stated in a Fitbit statement.

The Aria scale follows the lead of Withings WiFi body scale and the Bluetooth-enabled iHealth Weight Scale. While the Withings scale operates almost identically to the Aria by using a WiFi connection, the iHealth requires a user to have their smartphone or tablet close by during weigh-ins since it transmits data via a Bluetooth connection. Tanita and A&D also offer connected weight scales that can send results to smartphones and tablets.

For more on the Aria’s launch read the press release below: Keep reading>>

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SMS aids collaboration, reduces missed appointments, boosts mood

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 19, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsPsychologists at the University of California-Berkeley found that text messages help people feel more connected and cared for and help life a person’s mood when they send or receive an SMS. UC Berkeley professor Adrian Aguilera led the study, which was published in the journal, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

Aguilera told the UK’s Telegraph that the study originated back in 2010 when he began using text messages with patients who had depression. He sent them texts that prompted them to think about their moods and reply to positive and negative daily interactions. Aguilera said that the research provides new insights into the need for regular contact and check-ins from mental health professionals.

An article in the Wall Street Journal this week discussed how text messages between physicians and patients can help enable a more collaborative partnership. The report focuses on a new project, called the Collaborative Chronic Care Network, that currently includes participation from 6,800 patients and 33 healthcare centers.

According to the WSJ, “one of the participants is Emily Brandt, a 20-year-old student at the University of Michigan with ulcerative colitis. As part of one pilot, she gets four text messages every day asking her different questions, including whether she took her medicine and how many times she woke up in the middle of the night. Her doctor, [Dr. Jeremy Adler, a pediatric gastroenterologist], gets the results in graph form, which he and Ms. Brandt analyze together every two weeks.”

Since Dr. Adler can now see trends based on Emily’s tracking, they have been able to test out whether intravenous injections of a medication should be given more frequently or whether an improvement in symptoms during an unrelated antibiotics course might indication other means of treatment.

A study published in the Irish Medical Journal found that text messages significantly reduced non-attendance for appointments at an outpatient urology clinic in Dublin, Ireland. The study tracked missed appointments during a two year period before the introduction of text message appointment reminders and compared them to two years of data gathered while text message appointment reminders were used.

“The non-attendance rate in the two years prior to text message reminders was 17.6 percent (4,544 patients). Following the introduction of text message reminders, the overall non-attendance rate declined to 12.4 percent (3,423 patients), a reduction of 29.5 percent. The greatest improvement, a reduction in non-attendance rate of 63 percent, was seen in patients between 16 and 30 [years old].”

Verizon focuses healthcare efforts on chronic diseases, care coordination

By: Neil Versel | Apr 19, 2012        

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At the annual World Health Care Congress this week near Washington, D.C., Verizon Communications announced a partnership with Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks. As their first order of business, the two companies will build a system called the Cancer Action Knowledge Network to supply physicians with current cancer treatment protocols at the point of care.

This partnership fits into many of Verizon’s corporate goals and strategies. “In order to realize the full disruptive potential of technology, we need holistic approaches to solve these fundamental issues and deliver next-generation healthcare experiences to consumers,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said at the World Health Care Congress, according to remarks provided to MobiHealthNews.

With this in mind, the telecommunications behemoth a couple of years ago consolidated its $5 billion health IT practice into a unit dubbed Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions. At the beginning of 2012, the company created Verizon Enterprise Solutions to serve Fortune 500 and mid-size corporations, and installed former Verizon Wireless chief John Stratton as president.

Meantime, at the corporate level, Verizon is looking to rein in healthcare costs for the more than 900,000 employees, retirees and their families the self-insured company provides coverage for.

Kannan Sreedhar, managing director for healthcare in the new Verizon Enterprise Solutions division, sees huge potential for mobile technology to help Verizon and its customers manage costs related to what he calls the “big four” chronic diseases, namely diabetes, congestive heart failure, hypertension and obesity.

As people age, their ailments tend not to exist in isolation. “A significant portion of them have comorbities,” Sreedhar says in an interview with MobiHealthNews. Mobile technology helps involve patients as part of care teams to address complicated, expensive-to-treat conditions. “Make the patient the center of the care, along with their extended family,” he says.

Mobile health can help establish care management protocols for individual patients. “Having sensors is not sufficient,” Sreedhar says. The data need to be analyzed and acted upon. “This provides an opportunity for coordination of care,” he adds.

To Sreedhar, mobile health is but one component of what Verizon calls “virtual care,” itself a subset of telehealth. This can include video chats and even phone calls from health coaches and case managers, he explains.

Virtual care is a preferred option for sick employees and their children when they don’t necessarily have to go to a doctor or emergency room, according to Sreedhar. “If we can make it compliant and secure, it’s a breeze.”

It also saves the company a ton of money and makes employees more productive by keeping them on the job rather than having to take off half a day to go to the doctor.

Alas, Verizon still is a technology company, not a healthcare provider. “We are not getting into clinical services per se,” according to Sreedhar. “You will not see a Verizon m-health logo on a care management platform.”

Expect the company to focus on its historical strengths, including its ability to scale and deploy technology rapidly and to help keep information secure, even on mobile devices.

“Mobility is great, but in healthcare, the most important things are identity, security and compliance,” Sreedhar says.

Warm Health offers live chat iOS app to health plans

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 18, 2012        

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Warm Health iPhone appMinneapolis, MN-based healthcare communications and disease management company, Warm Health, announced the launch of an iPhone and iPad app for its health plan customers, which include Amerigroup, Medica, and HealthSpring, according to a report over at MedCity News.

As MedCity News points out, while the app enables health plans to deliver Warm Health’s care management programs, its distinguishing feature is a live chat channel, called Warm Chat, that enables health plan staff members, like those on a care management team, to have real-time conversations with their members. The app also offers a mood tracking journal, called Warmth Factor Journal.

“Health plans benefit from a secure, encrypted cloud-based communication channel with their members,” Warm Health CTO Tim Cameron stated in a company release. “Care management teams benefit from a completely integrated communication system that’s capable of reaching out to all members while highlighting those in need of help. Members benefit from the convenience of being able to read personalized communications on their schedule, and from the ability to ask for help whenever they need it. This app represents the next generation of interactive healthcare communications.”

While the app is now available and free to download, it is unclear if any of the company’s health plan customers are supporting yet. The app is not usable by people who are not a member of a participating health plan. An Android version of the Warm Health app is expected this summer.

More details over at MedCity News here.
Read the press release below: Keep reading>>

Isansys secures CE Mark for wearable wireless medical sensor

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 18, 2012        

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961 Isansys LifeTouchUK-based Isansys Lifecare has secured CE certification for its LifeTouch Patient Surveillance System, which includes a body-worn wireless medical sensor. The continuous, real-time vital sign monitoring system is cleared for use in the EU and other countries that recognize the CE Mark. Former Toumaz Technologies CEO Keith Errey left Toumaz along with another Toumaz executive to found Isansys in mid-2010. Toumaz also develops wireless vital sign monitors and partnered with NantWorks to launch a joint venture in the US last year.

Here’s how Isansys describes its monitor: “The ultra-low profile and lightweight LifeTouch HRV011 sensor measures and analyses the ECG signal of every heartbeat in real-time to provide data for Heart Rate Variability (HRV) methods with unprecedented accuracy. Robust algorithms in the HRV011 extract key ECG parameters from which Heart Rate and Respiration Rate are continuously derived. These key vital signs, together with the HRV data, may be viewed directly via a local network on the Patient Gateway web server interface, or forwarded into a secure cloud-based electronic patient record that is updated continuously and in real-time.”

The company is now working to develop a back-end cloud-based infrastructure to support the CE certified patient monitor system.

“This CE certification marks a major milestone on the road to global pervasive adoption of these kinds of essential devices. Our LifeTouch system – the world’s first cloud-ready medical device and, now, the first single-use smart patch device to achieve a CE mark – is in the vanguard and now ready for full-scale deployments,” Errey stated in the announcement. “The LifeTouch System is addressing the core quality of care and patient safety needs of healthcare providers with an approach that is totally unique in this market and defined by a clear understanding of how clinical environments actually function.”

Last year the company also announced the formation of Bangalore-based Isansys Lifecare Systems, an India-based venture that aims to capitalize on that country’s emerging healthcare industry.

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>

BabyBump, PinkPad health app developer raises $1.2M

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 18, 2012        

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BabyBump iPhone pregnancy tracker appSan Francisco-based Alt12 Apps, developer of the popular BabyBump pregnancy tracker app, has secured $1.26 million in its seed round of funding led by Aydin Senkut’s Felicis Ventures and with participation by InterWest Partners and individual investors including HealthTap founder Ron Gutman. Alt12 Apps has developed three apps that have corresponding social networks: BabyBump, PinkPad, and Kidfolio.

BabyBump is available for download on Apple iOS, Android and Palm devices. The app helps new and expectant parents stay informed, track, and share their pregnancy’s progress. Just a few of the app’s features include a due date calculator, personal countdown screen with weeks and days left for each trimester, a weekly schematic embryo picture of your baby, weight and waist tracker, mood and symptom tracker, an email/Facebook/Twitter integrated “going into labor” notifier for family and friends. The app also helps users create a timelapse slideshow of belly photos. The app has a free version but the full featured BabyBump app costs $3.99 for iOS users.

Alt12 Apps’ Pink Pad Pro app is a fertility, period, and health tracker app. The app helps women track weight, menstrual cycle, emotional and physical wellbeing, and more while connecting users to a global community of women. The newest version of the app for iOS4 users syncs the app to the phone’s native calendar application. The paid version of the app costs $1.99 for iOS users. Pink Pad for iPad — an HD app — is also available for $2.99.

While the company did not provide specific download numbers for either app, the funding announcement did include a figure for total downloads across the various versions of the two apps: More than 4.5 million total downloads. The company also claims about 1 million monthly active users in total for the two apps, while about 250,000 people use the apps daily.

More in the press release below: Keep reading>>